10 best photo printers
Print high-quality pictures at home with any of these printers
Thanks to technology and social media, photo printers were once predicted to go the way of the dinosaurs. Or, more accurately, the way of Foto Mat. But despite the demise of many picture printers, there is currently a bit of a renaissance happening in photo printing. Smartphone apps loaded with filters, frames, and other fun features, combined with digital printers that can produce incredibly detailed images, have reclaimed a place in today’s culture for printed pictures.
We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best photo printers, including portable machines that fit in your pocket and print instantly and desktop models that the entire family can use.
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The Epson Expression XP-7100 is a compact, easy-to-use printer that’s inexpensive and delivers a lot for the money. It’s great for small offices and takes up minimal space on a desk or cart. Best of all, it cranks out smudge-resistant, colorful prints quickly, in about 12 seconds. It can do all the usual tasks, such as scanning, faxing and copying, and it can print on anything from specialty paper to DVDs. The XP-7100 has a large touchscreen that makes setting it up easy, and we had it printing photos from multiple devices about 30 minutes after opening the box.
Portable and light—it weighs about six ounces and fits in your pocket—the IVY Mini allows you to take your photo print capabilities anywhere. Syncing it to a smartphone was as easy as pairing any new Bluetooth device, and we were printing photos less than five minutes after powering on the machine. The IVY prints clear, crisp images, but because it’s a portable unit the pictures are small, just 2x3 inches, and you have to load the paper individually for each photo. Since it prints from mobile devices, it works with most social media filters (so don’t worry, it will print that pic of you and your friends with the dog ears!). And the IVY Mini app gives users even more options to personalize photos, including stickers, frames, and a drawing tool.
The Polaroid name is synonymous with instant photos, so a device like the Zip makes sense. It prints 2x3 inch photos on Polaroid ZINK paper (peelable sticky backs!) directly from a smartphone or tablet, no computer needed. Like other pocket printers, the Zip is limited by its size, but a combination of a sturdy, durable feel and easy-to-use, streamlined technology make the Zip a bit better than most of its competitors. Factor in sharper-than-expected prints, which were vivid and surprisingly bold, and the Zip is a credit to the Polaroid instant photo tradition.
The Envy 7155 is a workhorse, designed to handle a heavy volume of printing with precision and consistency. It’s multifunctional and can fax, scan, copy, and produce pro-quality pictures and graphics quickly. It’s fully wireless and easy to integrate into your home network in about 15 minutes, or you can print directly from your smartphone or another device. And if you pair it with the HP Smart app, you can print and share photos directly from social media. The Envy is not small (it’s a full-size desktop printer) but it makes up for its bulk with reliability and beautiful photos.
The PictureMate prints borderless 4x6 and 5x7 photos in detail that would have made the folks at the Photo Mat kiosk jealous, and it prints them quickly. It works wirelessly from a smartphone or other device or via your camera or memory card, and it’s a breeze to set up, even for someone who’s technologically challenged. The built-in automatic photo correction on the PictureMate was a pleasant surprise (and a difference-maker in our pictures), and the advanced face detection ensures consistency every time you print. The PictureMate is a little heavier than other portable printers, weighing in at about four pounds, and it will take up a little more room on your desk, but the quality of the machine makes it hard to pass up.
The Instax is about the size of a mini tablet and light—just over a pound. It doesn’t use ink cartridges to print, but the photos develop on special film that needs to be replaced every 10- or 20- photos, like an old-fashioned Polaroid. (In fact, the prints even have the solid white border, just like the old Polaroids.) That’s about the only old-fashioned thing about the Instax. It’s almost plug-and-play with minimal setup, and it works quickly and wirelessly. With its instant, Millennial-type vibe, you’ll feel guilty using anything other than a smartphone with this machine. Unfortunately, the photos we produced appeared to be digitized and fuzzy, even when compared to similar portable printers. We chalked that up to its unique way of producing the prints and balanced it out against the Instax’s many good points. Our conclusion? If your priorities are less on top-quality prints and more on a fun and nimble printer, the Instax is a perfect fit.
When used with the Kodak Photo app, the Kodak Mini 2 HD is part printer, part social media tool. It’s able to share photos directly to your Android device by simply tapping the phone on the top of the printer, and the Kodak app has tons of features and editing tools. It uses all-in-one paper, and ink cartridges and the pictures are remarkably sharp for such a small machine. The only limitation of the Mini HD is that it exclusively prints wallet-sized photos which, combined with its small size, make it a favorite for travel, parties or other get-togethers, but not a good fit for everyday needs.
The Canon SELPHY CP1300 is designed to be a portable printer that churns out professional-quality pictures that last 100 years. (We didn’t have a century to verify, but Canon seems pretty sure of its Dye-Sub technology.) What we can verify is that the photos the SELPHY prints are exceptional, with vivid colors and rich detail. It’s compact (it weighs less than two pounds) and has a rechargeable battery pack so it can truly go anywhere. It prints slower than many other models, but it makes up for the lack of speed with its adaptability. The issue with the SELPHY is that it only works with special Canon SELPHY paper, which can be inconvenient and limits its otherwise top-notch versatility.
The Expression Premium XP-6000 is a basic model printer that does all the typical jobs consumers have come to expect: It can scan, copy, fax, and prints high-quality photos. It’s a bit slower than the more expensive Epson models—printing a borderless photo took about 24 seconds—but the picture quality is fantastic. The XP-6000’s main drawback is that it requires five separate ink cartridges, which could make its low price irrelevant over time if you’re planning on printing a lot of photos. It’s a good base model at a great price, but if you need a machine that can handle high volume photos, graphics, and other full-color jobs, using this printer could get expensive.
The Sprocket is so small, you’ll confuse it with your smartphone if it’s in your pocket. It prints pictures from your camera roll or directly from most social media sites, making the Sprocket ideal for anyone who wants cross-platform access to photo sharing. The prints are above average, especially for a pocket printer, but the Sprocket’s battery was disappointing. It charges in about 80 minutes, but only prints 30 pictures until it needs a charge again. We found the constant time outs to charge the device directly countered its speed and portability, which are the best things about the Sprocket.
The Verdict: Best Photo Printers
We love the Epson Expression XP-7100 because it has the performance and all the features packed into a tight, efficient device at an economical price. The crisp photos the XP-7100 produces are second to none, and its ease-of-use can’t be overlooked. But if you’re looking for something for printing photos on the go, we liked the Polaroid Zip Mobile Mini, based on a combination of strong photo quality, portability, ease of sharing pictures, and availability of app-based editing tools.
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